Israel’s Odd Democracy

Israeli flag
Israeli flag

On October 4th the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that residents of that country could not identify themselves as Israeli in the nation’s registry. The decision was the result of some Israeli citizens, most of them Jews, demanding to be able to call themselves Israelis, a secular term, instead of having to identify themselves as belonging to a particular religion or ethnic group.

All of the residents of Israel, no matter their religion, are officially citizens of the country. But, according to the court’s decision, there’s officially no such thing as an Israeli. The court explained its decision by reiterating that Judaism is the official state religion of Israel, and that purpose of the creation of Israel was to be a Jewish state for Jewish people.

The Israeli government isn’t a theocracy, and all of its residents are considered to be citizens, but it’s difficult to believe that non-Jewish Israelis don’t experience discrimination in this legal environment. In fact, the goal of the group that petitioned the court was to strengthen their country in the long run by helping to end discrimination against non-Jews by the creation of an official Israeli identity.

Israel is one of our important military allies in the Middle East, but American politicians are fond of saying that a big reason we support Israel is that they are the only democracy in the Middle East. But it isn’t an American style of democracy.

Update

On January 7, 2018, the government of Israel published a list of 20 international organizations whose members are prohibited from entering the country. They are banned because their groups advocate a boycott of Israel for its failure to comply with international law in regards to its policies towards Palestinians. The list includes six U.S. groups, including two run by Jewish activists.

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